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Pennsylvania Railroad electric locomotives

By Robert S McGonigal | January 14, 2021

Classic Trains' guide to electric locomotives on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

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Box-cab electric locomotive

The Pennsylvania Railroad is famed for its GG1 electric locomotives, but casual observers might be surprised to learn how extensive Pennsy’s electric operations were.

After a tentative start with a limited D.C. third-rail system in the early 1900s, the PRR built an A.C. catenary empire between 1915 and 1938 — and fielded an impressive array of locomotives to operate it.

AA1
Power system: 650-volt D.C. third rail
Wheel arrangement: B+B
Built: PRR (Westinghouse electrical equipment), 1905
Road Nos.: 10001, 10002
Quantity: 2
Horsepower: 1,400 (10001), 1,240 (10002)
Both scrapped

Box-cab electric locomotive
PRR class AA1 10002 was one of two experimental D.C. third-rail units the railroad built when planning the electrification for New York’s Pennsylvania Station, which opened in 1910. PRR

Odd class D
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: 2-B
Built: Baldwin (Westinghouse elec. equip.), 1907
Road No.: 10003
Quantity: 1
Horsepower: 750
Scrapped

Box-cab electric locomotive
PRR’s lone “odd class D” had a wheel arrangement based on the 4-4-0 steam locomotive; it tested on a short section of catenary-equipped Long Island Rail Road track. It led to the DD1, which was essentially two of these paired back to back, albeit with jackshaft side-rod drive and D.C. third-rail power. Edward T. Francis collection

DD1
Power system: 650-volt D.C. third rail
Wheel arrangement: 2-B+B-2
Built: PRR (Westinghouse elec. equip.), 1909–11
Road Nos.: 3932–3999*
Quantity: 33*
Horsepower: 3,160
One pair preserved
* Includes 2 “Odd class DD” pairs

Two-unit box-cab electric locomotive
Although PRR’s DD1 units were individually numbered, they always operated in drawbar-connected pairs, each of which was considered a single locomotive. Several were handed down to PRR subsidiary Long Island Rail Road for freight service. Nearly all lasted until the 1960s.
Classic Trains collection

FF1
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: 1-C+C-1
Built: PRR (Westinghouse elec. equip.), 1917
Road No.: 3931
Quantity: 1
Horsepower: 4,000
Scrapped

Box-cab electric heavy-freight locomotive
PRR built this side-rod behemoth with an eye toward electrifying its main line over the Alleghenies. That never happened, and it worked mainly in helper service between Philadelphia and Paoli before being scrapped in 1940. Classic Trains collection

L5paw
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: 1-B-B-1
Built: PRR (Westinghouse elec. equip.), 1924
Road No.: 3930
Quantity: 1
Horsepower: 3,040
Scrapped

Steeple-cab electric locomotive
Although it was given PRR’s class “L” denoting a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement, the L5’s rigid-frame, divided-drive made it more akin to a 2-4-4-2. The design was intended to be a “universal” locomotive suitable for both East Coast passenger service and mountain freight work. It was not successful. Chaney collection

L5pdw
Power system: 650-volt D.C. third rail
Wheel arrangement: 1-B-B-1
Built: PRR (Westinghouse and Brown Boveri elec. equip.), 1924–28
Road Nos.: 3922–3929, 7801–7815
Quantity: 23
Horsepower: 3,040
All scrapped

Steeple-cab electric locomotive
PRR’s L5 motors were intended to augment the DD1s hauling passenger trains between Sunnyside Yard in Queens and Manhattan Transfer, N.J. Not as good as their predecessors, the L5’s worked only until the start of A.C. service in the early 1930s. John P. Ahrens

B1
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: C
Built: PRR (Westinghouse and Allis-Chalmers elec. equip.), 1924–35
Road Nos.: 3900–3901, 3910–3921, 5684–5697*
Quantity: 28
Horsepower: 570
* 3900–3901 built to operate as a pair, class BB1; separated to 2 class B1 in 1933. 3910–3921 built as D.C. third rail to operate in six pairs, class BB2; separated to 12 class B1 in 1933 and converted to A.C. catenary
One preserved

Box-cab electric switching locomotive
Class B1 5687, a member of North America’s largest class of electric switch engines, works at Harrisburg, Pa., west end of PRR’s passenger electrification, in the 1940s. Bert Pennypacker

O1/O1a/O1b/O1c
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: 2-B-2
Built: PRR (Westinghouse, General Electric, and Brown Boveri elec. equip.), 1930–31
Road Nos.: 7850–7851 (O1); 7852–7853 (O1a); 7854–7855 (O1b); 7856–7857 (O1c)
Quantity: 8
Horsepower: 2,000 (O1), 2,200 (O1b), O1a, 2,500 (O1a, O1c)
All scrapped

Box-cab electric passenger locomotive
Outside Newark, N.J., PRR class O1b 7854 is ready to take a Lehigh Valley train into Penn Station, New York, in April 1939. (An LV steam engine brought the train in from the west.) The eight O1-series passenger motors were too light for most duties, and often operated in pairs. Robert A. Le Massena

P5/P5a/P5a modified
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: 2-C-2
Built: PRR, Baldwin, General Electric (Westinghouse, GE elec. equip.), 1931–35
Road Nos.: 7898–7899 (P5, renumbered 4700, 4791); 4701–4742, 4755–4774 (P5a); 4743–4754, 4775–4790 (P5a modified)
Quantity: 92 (2 P5, 62 P5a, 28 P5a modified)
Horsepower: 3,750
Notes: P5a 4702 rebuilt to 5,000 h.p., reclassified P5b; P5a 4770 rebuilt to P5a modified
One P5 preserved

Box-cab electric passenger locomotive
PRR P5a 4701 heads a train at Manhattan Transfer, N.J., in the early 1930s. The first 64 P5 and P5a heavy passenger motors were built to this box-cab design. Classic Train collection
Steeple-cab streamlined electric passenger locomotive
After a collision killed the crew of a box-cab P5a, PRR had the remainder of the fleet built with a streamlined steeple-cab, designating them “P5a modified.” By the time of this March 1935 photo of 4775, all the P5-series units were transitioning from passenger service, in which they had been found wanting, to freight work, which they performed until the early 1960s. Classic Train collection photo

L6/L6a
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: 1-D-1
Built: PRR, Lima (Westinghouse, GE elec. equip.), 1931–34
Road Nos.: 7825¬–7826 (L6, renumbered 5938–5939); 5940 (L6a)
Quantity: 3
Horsepower: 2,500
All scrapped

Box-cab electric freight locomotive
The L6 series was to be PRR’s top electric freight locomotive, but when the P5-series motors were reassigned to freight service, the fleet was capped at two L6 prototypes and one L6a, which was the first of a 30-unit order from Lima that was never completed. They worked into the 1960s as switchers in New York; the 5638 is seen at Sunnyside around 1950. Thomas McDermott Jr.

R1
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: 2-D-2
Built: Baldwin (Westinghouse elec. equip.), 1934
Road No.: 4800 (renumbered 4899, then 4999)
Quantity: 1
Horsepower: 5,000
Scrapped

Steeple-cab streamlined electric passenger locomotive
The lone R1 was one of two prototypes PRR acquired as it searched for a successor to the P5 as its premier passenger electric locomotive (the other was the GG1). Although it was not selected for fleet production, the R1 enjoyed a two-decade career in passenger service. Here it rests between runs at Sunnyside Yard in the late 1940s. W. R. Osborne

GG1
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: 2-C+C-2
Built: PRR, General Electric (Westinghouse, GE elec. equip.), 1934–1943
Road Nos.: 4899 (renumbered 4800), 4801–4938
Quantity: 139
Horsepower: 4,620
16 preserved

Steeple-cab streamlined electric passenger locomotive
The GG1’s articulated running gear gave it superior tracking qualities over the R1, earning it the nod for fleet production. Designed for fast, heavy passenger service, the GG1 proved to be an outstanding dual-service design, a landmark of American industrial design. The class had a 49-year career. PRR 4801 is fresh out of GE’s Erie (Pa.) plant in May 1935. General Electric

DD2
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: 2-B+B-2
Built: PRR (Westinghouse elec. equip.), 1938
Road No.: 5800
Quantity: 1
Horsepower: 5,000
Scrapped

Steeple-cab streamlined electric locomotive
The final PRR-designed electric locomotive, the DD2 was an attempt at a dual-service design that got more power from fewer axles than the GG1. Set up for freight service, No. 5800 remained an orphan until it was scrapped in 1962. PRR

E2b
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: B-B
Built: General Electric, 1951
Road Nos.: 4939–4944
Quantity: 6
Horsepower: 2,500
All scrapped

Two carbody-type streamlined electric freight locomotives
As PRR reevaluated its electrified operations in the early 1950s, it acquired a half dozen freight motors from GE. Unlike earlier PRR electrics, they followed diesel-electric practice in their cab design and running gear. However, their traction motors were of a conventional A.C. design. H. N. Proctor

E3b/ E3c
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: B-B-B (E3b); C-C (E3c)
Built: Baldwin (Westinghouse elec. equip.), 1951
Road Nos.: 4995–4996 (E3b); 4997–4998 (E3c)
Quantity: 4
Horsepower: 3,000
All scrapped

Carbody-type streamlined electric freight locomotive
Baldwin-Westinghouse’s four 1951 freight units differed from GE’s in their propulsion systems. Ignitron rectifiers converted A.C. from the catenary to D.C. that was fed to diesel-style traction motors. PRR’s two E3b units employed an unusual (for North America) B-B-B wheel arrangement. Westinghouse
Carbody-type streamlined electric freight locomotive
Like the B-B-B E2b twins, PRR’s C-C E3c units rectified A.C. to D.C. for traction motors. Ignitron-rectifier technology would soon become standard for electrics, but by that time Baldwin-Westinghouse had left the locomotive market. Westinghouse

FF2
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: 1-C+C-1
Built: American (GE elec. equip.), 1927–30
Road Nos.: 1–7
Quantity: 7
Horsepower: 3,300
All scrapped

Box-cab electric freight locomotive
PRR’s only secondhand electric locomotives were seven ex-Great Northern box-cabs made surplus by the de-electrification of GN’s Cascade Tunnel district in 1956. PRR used them in freight and helper service west of Philadelphia before scrapping them in 1960–65. Don Wood

E44
Power system: 11,000-volt A.C. catenary
Wheel arrangement: C-C
Built: General Electric, 1960–63
Road Nos.: 4400–4465
Quantity: 66
Horsepower: 4,400
1 preserved

Road-switcher-type electric freight locomotive
The last word in PRR electric locomotives was a road-switcher-type freight hauler that used the A.C.-to-D.C. ignitron-rectifier technology pioneered by the E3b and E3c. GE built the final 6 E44 units with silicon-diode rectifiers, raising their output to 5,000 h.p. and resulting in an “E44a” designation; 22 others were later so modified before the Penn Central bankruptcy ended the program. The entire 66-unit fleet survived until Conrail ended electric freight operations in 1981.
General Electric

 

 

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